Tomato Sandwiches…

We’ve had a good crop of tomatoes this year…and we’ve eaten more than our share of the most southern of all sandwiches…the Tomato Sandwich. I was reminded of this piece written back in 2016. My favorite line will always be – ‘the closer you live to a tomato vine, the better your life will be’ …hope y’all enjoy reading about Tomato Sandwiches , better yet I hope your summer includes some homegrown or farmers market tomatoes!

Camellia's Cottage

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Summer tomatoes are a delicacy. The closer you live to a tomato vine the better your life will be. There is nothing like the smell of a warm tomato on the vine, nothing. Here at Camellia’s Cottage-we not only hire a pet sitter, we hire someone to water our tomatoes if we’re gone on vacation!  We’ve even been known to bribe folks with tomatoes…‘If you’ll come by andpick up the mail, you can pick some tomatoes.’ Works every time.  We wait on the tomatoes , fret over them- we check on them, often. When we talk tomatoes- we say morbid things like –

  • ‘I think my tomatoes have blossom end rot’
  • ‘Well, the hornworms are going to get to the tomatoes.’
  • ‘I think a possum uprooted the tomato plants.’
  • ‘The birds are going to get all of the tomatoes if you don’t get them first.’
  • ‘This is the last year I’m going…

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Contemplatin’ Freedom…

408E9F09-38B0-4454-B5EB-16462BF5C81BI was feeling contemplative about the Fourth of July- okay, I was peeling potatoes for the potato salad- a mindless task… that’s when contemplating is easy. We had just gotten back from a last minute trip to Washington D. C., a city that is filled with more  profound history and symbolism than perhaps any other in this nation. It’s a white columned marbled and statuesque city- some of the marble was quarried right here in Alabama! Of course I’ve been to DC several times in my long and storied life- yet I always come away with a sense of awe and wonder; always learning something new…or something I knew seems to come alive in my mind.  For instance, the expanse of the sky overhead is startling for a major city- there are no skyscrapers- by law. Why?

E2F13F06-B017-41B7-8FDD-73C0CC7D0E9CLook at the statue that crowns the dome on top of the US Capitol Building. Her name is Freedom.

  • No building shall rise above Freedom.
  • Nothing in our nation’s capital is allowed to cast a shadow on Freedom.

Pause and contemplate that! Profound, especially when you consider that Freedom was commissioned in bronze when our nation was divided- literally by civil war and unrest. The pediment that Freedom stands on is embossed with the Latin words E Pluribus Unum, out of many one.  The center part of the capitol building had been destroyed during the War of 1812.. it was being rebuilt; the new plans included the iconic dome…made of cast iron weighing 1000’s of pounds… President Lincoln insisted that work continue on the building despite the war that had torn us apart, so the American people would be encouraged that our nation would once again be united and whole.

F7C6A780-B268-464D-BB94-1E223DA6F00BWhen we last visited Washington D.C. renovations were being made to the interior of the dome, now completed, it is once again a masterpiece.  I couldn’t help being reminded of one of my favorite Scriptures…

‘Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses who have  gone before us, let us throw aside every encumbrance and run with patient endurance the portion of the race set before us…’ Hebrews 12:1

George Washington figures strongly in the painting- he is flanked by Liberty and Victory within the dome and each symbolic creature seems to be looking down from the heavens…other figures represent aspects of American life and industry that helped forge our freedom. For instance, Mercury is offering a bag of gold to Robert Morris- the financier of the American Revolution, the war which defeated tyranny and the power of a monarch.  Americans prize freedom; historically, we’ve been willing to fight and struggle to remain free. Now, I know most of you are thinking…

‘Wow, that’s pretty heavy stuff to be thinking when you’re peeling potatoes.’ Well, yes, I guess it is-  however, even Southern girls can contemplate things like this quicker’n whipping up a bowl of potato salad!  After all, it was the Fourth of July- it’s not all about fireworks and barbeque- though I must admit to lovin’ the tastier aspects…. George Washington loved pit barbeque- even gave a few barbeques himself! A tall athletic man, Washington was also endowed with amazing leadership skills, wealth and an impeccable reputation- wouldn’t even lie about cutting down a cherry tree as any school age child is taught. The cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin evoke his memory. George Washington was honored as a Revolutionary War General, the First US President and also called The Father of our Country. Washington was named a national icon in the 1800’s when the new capitol dome was being designed. The dome’s design includes a feature that bathes the entire Rotunda in light. Light is symbolic of Truth and Goodness… the two virtues that our government and her people should always strive to attain.

Anytime you’re going on vacation to an historic city- there’s so much to see and do…it’s good to have a few goals. For this trip to Washington DC, the purpose of our trip was to attend an award ceremony at the Pentagon and take the tour, which included the location in the building where an airliner struck the Pentagon on 9/11- the damaged section is now a chapel with  an honor anteroom, including a window looking toward the frightful path of the weaponized plane and overlooking a memorial garden for the 183 lives lost that fateful day. Also we wanted to see the newly renovated dome, eat a lobster roll at Luke’s near the National Portrait Gallery, eat at Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace in Georgetown and we had plans  to watch the somberly beautiful- Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. CD31FDD7-D9A1-44C7-BD8D-23B97C0FDEB3

The day we were there, four funerals were to be held. As we waited for our tram to take us back- everyone became quiet and with hands over heart- we watched as a caisson slowly passed by- with 6 saddled black horses- the horses on the left had riders…the horses on the right were riderless adding to the  beautiful yet haunting sight. No photographs were taken out of respect for the slain veteran. The architecture in the cemetery is astounding in its masterful detail.

I had finished making our Fourth of July potato salad… A thought had occurred to me- Just how long had it been since I had actually read the Declaration of Independence and why among all of our national holidays had I not made a tradition of reading it? We read the Thanksgiving stories of Pilgrims and Indians, we read the ‘Night before Christmas’ to our bright eyed children…of all the traditions we have in this great nation…why not read the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July? Oh, I think we all know some of the beautiful phrases-

  • ‘When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary…’
  • “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
  • ‘And…with a firm reliance on divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’

Yet somehow the whole declaration and its history isn’t dwelt upon annually. For instance, when you read the whole document- just the reading of the indictments of the monarch, King George III- are extremely informative. The time frame of it’s writing is also interesting… the Revolutionary War was already underway  when the declaration was written and ratified. Even more pressing and dramatic to contemplate- British war ships were bearing down upon New York Harbor!

In June of 1776, the colonies had become increasingly united concerning the need to declare independence from the Crown and Parliament. The delegates appointed a Committee of Five, which included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson- Time was of the essence…

Jefferson was assigned the task of writing the declaration…he had a little over 2 weeks to write what would become one of the most important documents in human history. After consulting others who edited the document… Jefferson wrote that they ‘mangled it’  even as he exclaimed in his later years that the edits to sentence structure and removal of a full fourth of his original produced ‘the majestic document’ we now know as the Declaration of Independence…it was accepted on July 2, 1776. With that, the colonies had officially severed ties with Great Britain. John Adams believed that eventually Independence Day would become a day of celebration for generations.

  • On July 4 with a few more changes…
  • the wording was approved, it was signed and sent to the printer.
  • Two hundred copies were printed-

Now, this is important! President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock sent a broadside copy of the Declaration to General George Washington, who ordered that the declaration be read in full publically on July 9, 1776 to encourage folks to join the cause and to inspire his troops in New York City…wait for it…

  • The Declaration of Independence was read aloud… as 1000’s of soldiers on British warships were in New York Harbor!
  • This is profound enough, yet when you consider that 225 years later… the United States was attacked near the same location.
  • Standing overlooking the New York Harbor the Twin Towers were pummeled by those who would terrorize the American People.
  • Symbolism is one of our greatest teachers… Overlooking the same New York Harbor, rising up out of the ashes, in 2014 the new and gleaming One World Trade Center stands 1776 feet tall…

EA88D03E-E929-4DDA-BBB1-1CC5A50428C0May I be so bold as to suggest that-between July 4 and July 9 of each year… we make an effort to read the Declaration of Independence?After all, it ultimately became the spectacles through which the US Constitution is interpreted.   And in the reading of it, perhaps we will hear the echoes General George Washington’s voice , full of truth and goodness- as he declares Freedom from Tyranny and hear the inspiring words of the majestic document that still inspires generations..

The Declaration of Independence-  ‘…with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other- our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’

Every thing they had was offered for the cause of Liberty- their lands, possessions and incomes, their very lives and the one thing these brave men valued above all- their honorable reputations.

E2F13F06-B017-41B7-8FDD-73C0CC7D0E9CRemember Freedom? Standing high above our nation’s capitol building? Contemplate Freedom, often. Let nothing overshadow Freedom. Let nothing rise above Freedom.

Independence Day is a wonderful national holiday, full of many reasons to be thankful for the protection of divine Providence – I hope yours was full of good food, fireworks, inspiration and contemplatin’ Freedom.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Please make note: The purpose of Camellia’s Cottage is not political opinion or commentary. Our purpose is to promote gracious inspiration and genteel conversations.

*All photographs are obviously mine. The photograph of the small American flag was near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I wondered if perhaps a young child had placed it there…

*Forgive me for not crediting sources…many are from tour guides and multiple resources from which notes were taken but no one source to provide a consistent resource.

Sunday Dinner…

6854D683-9F51-4907-BFFA-95097BD50926Southern cooks aren’t known for carefully measuring spices… we just pinch and sprinkle until we hear the hints and whispers of our ancestors – ‘Add another pinch, okay, that’s enough’. Our spirits tell us- even God surely loves Southern cooking…especially Sunday Dinner. For decades now, I’ve been cooking Sunday Dinner- it’s not like weekday lunches or suppers- when the call goes out ‘It’s ready! Come on in while it’s hot! Y’all come eat!‘ No, on Sundays, folks still use the southern term- ‘Dinner’-for the midday meal. I know it’s strange but down here.. lunch is dinner and dinner is called supper. Go figure, it’s just how we talk. This weekly meal is my effort of bringing my family together- whoever is around and will come…  with no TV blaring and no phone calls and cellphones down, please. There’s no phone call or talk show that can’t wait until Sunday Dinner is over… in fact, rarely a meal is eaten here at the cottage with any of that background noise. My momma used to say- ‘Cut that TV off, it’s so loud I can’t hear myself think!’

On Sundays, I step up to the fiery kitchen altars and cook. Call it a sacrifice, I call it devotion. Usually, it’s familiar food… I don’t think I have to tell you this…this special meal has it’s roots in my ancestral soil. Southern food is what we long for – all. week. long.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a Chicken Pie with tiny carrot coins and early peas. Lemon dressed Spring Greens, small Cucumbers and Cherry Tomatoes fresh from the vines, a side of cool salad- that’s what I fixed this past Sunday. Other times Sunday Dinner is more involved-

Fried Pork Chops, Gravy, Biscuits, Mashed Potatoes and Squash Casserole, maybe flat Green Beans and sliced Tomatoes. Or if the shrimp is fresh.. Jambalaya and cornbread.

Whether elaborate or plain and simple meals- on Sundays- Dessert always makes it’s way to the table. Maybe a cobbler or fresh berries with shortcake and whipped cream or plain sugared berries with our favorite summer berry topping- a dollop of sour cream and a generous sprinkle of brown sugar, especially after a heavy meal.

I could go on and on with this… but I’m getting ahead of myself. While I finish up the cooking- another comes in and pulls out the goblets for Iced Tea and if the table needs a few finishing touches….I appreciate the help. Then perhaps the best ritual of all is the one who settles in his seat- knowing we won’t eat a bite until he says…‘Y’all want me to say the blessing?’ We always say- ‘Yes’ .

That’s the thing about Sunday Dinner- we’re on our best behavior. Okay- we say the blessing at other meals- yet somehow it’s different, more reverent on Sundays. The blessing is said, the dishes are passed- there’s no boarding house reach- quiet requests like-

  • ‘Pass the peas, please’
  • ‘I think I’ll have another roll…maybe another helping’
  • ‘Could you pass the butter?’
  • When you can, pass me the salt and pepper.’ ‘
  • Thank you, oh, you’re welcome’… words that are so nice to hear.

Far from the bustling crowds, as they say- after a long week…Sunday Dinner calms the soul, truly it does. It wouldn’t be authentic to say that Sunday Dinner here is a high culinary experience unless you haven’t run up on one in a long time…the love of Southern Food is what we all have in common- and that makes for an uncommon experience.

The southern cook has a tendency to be concerned; is the food she’s cooked is up to her usual high standards- she might say…

  • ‘That cornbread didn’t turn out as good this time, seems dry’ or
  • ‘How in the world did I get these beans so salty…
  • hand it here, let me see what I can do with it.’
  • Or maybe the dish comes to the table with warnings…
  • Now, y’all watch out- that casserole just came out of the oven and it’s hot as fire’ or
  • ‘Now, don’t y’all add a drop of hot sauce to my jambalaya until you taste it- I added cayenne and red pepper flakes! It’s already as hot as the hinges on the devil’s back door!’

As the meal winds down; you have to sit up a bit straighter so your stomach can manage the load you shoveled in, so you can eat just a bite of dessert; yeah, right…. Words that are music to the Sunday cook’s ears are…

  • ‘That was soo good…’
  • I enjoyed my dinner’
  • ‘Let me help you rinse these dishes’
  • Those words are a surefire way to get a response…
  • ‘Wouldn’t you like to take some home with you? Maybe for your lunch tomorrow, keep you from having to cook.
  • Go ahead take some of those extra cucumbers home too!’

Sunday Dinner or any Southern meal for that matter, is a table loaded with ancestral foods…it has an effect on folks. They can disagree on everything under the sun- but set ’em down to eat? Something mystical occurs… I can’t explain it, I’m not sure how the alchemy happens… yet I’ve seen it so many times- there’s no denying folks become gentler, easier to get along with… agreeable that’s the word. Gracious, quiet murmurs and kind. Eating our ancestral foods, with common spices and well understood combinations- well now, that is a life altering experience if there ever is one. Hopefully, by God’s grace… I’ll be able to take part in the making of Sunday Dinner until I’m promoted to Glory.

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.

Sinking Spells…

It’s been so hot here, the sap rising from the porch floor boards, the paint’s cracked and is threatening to curl up and die. And if there was a chicken trying to cross the hot pavement on the road- I can just about guarantee that she’d be hopscotching or flopping trying to get to the other side…when she’d collapse in a bonafide sinking spell! My grandmother had a barometer on her wall for just such occasions when thunder and lightening threatened to break the heat by throwing a big storm or wind and rain- just to cool things off… she’d always blame such maladies like Sinking Spells on the barometric pressure among other things… I hope you enjoy this piece I wrote a few summers ago about this very subject! Love y’all and stay cool…

Camellia's Cottage

vintage woman on fainting couchSouthern Ladies are known for vague conditions and symptoms, like Sinking Spells. We’re not looking for medical terms or specifics. We prefer eccentric descriptive health conditions like:

  • Having a Come Apart, Being in a Fog, In a Rigor
  • Suffering from the Change of Seasons, a Crying Jag or being absolutely Mortified
  • Wasting Away, Catching a Chill or In a State of Abject Horror
  • Being covered with Chigger Bites, Flustrated, or Working ourselves into a State.

We know the value and consequences of various Fits- Hissy Fits, Conniption Fits, Running Fits and if the situation calls for it- we might even Pitch a Fit. There are vague Nervous Conditions too, which are never labelled with Capital Letters. Nervous conditions are described in more colorful terms:

  • A Basket Case
  • Gone Over a Cliff
  • Being High Strung
  • Falling to Pieces (which made Patsy Cline a major Grand Ol’ Opry Star)
  • Breaking to Bits, Melancholia
  • Flighty, Nervous Ninnies, Having Spots before Our Eyes

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The Bird’s Nest…

719B2E01-6F3A-48B2-A501-289E21B1D32EOk, I admit it, the mailbox is old and needs to be replaced… it’s one of those jobs we’ve put off doing. The mailbox isn’t in a great location to begin with and our other options aren’t that great. The postal workers are good sports about it, even though the red flag has been long gone and the mailbox tends to stand open almost all the time… to be honest it’s a busy box. We were surprised this year in early May to discover at the very back of the mailbox- there was a bird’s nest! Of all places…

Here at the cottage, we’re used to finding bird’s nests- one favorite spot seems to be right above the front door, which I frankly find charming. We don’t disturb those front door nests or any others we find. Occasionally we’ve had a front door nest fall on the doormat and tried to put it back, knowing it probably wouldn’t be used again, since we’ve touched it. Another favorite spot seems to be among the rose bushes along the picket fence out front. We know this, we don’t disturb them, we like them! To me, a bird’s nest is one of the most hopeful things in nature. This year in January, it was time to cut the roses back hard- they had become leggy and too tall, so we took a few inches off at a time, precisely to keep from disturbing any unseen bird’s nests, since we’ve noticed they’re used over again.  We found no rose bush nests this time, so the pruning was done… Now, I’m no expert on birding or bird nest building but I have to admit I have a strong admiration for their building skills- some are works of art and some are sort of messy but still charming.

18863792-0A9F-42CE-8324-3BF4D5B2222EWe left one for several years- which had been built in a galvanized pitcher left on it’s side was under a little outbuilding. Finally we decided that it had been abandoned. That nest was so well built, I haven’t been able to dislodge it. I keep it, I love to look at it. I’ve even named it’s photograph- ‘Empty Nest’.  I’ve even built a few faux nests by using craft store ‘nests’ and embellishing them- especially around Eastertime.

The mailbox nest was a puzzle- weeks went by… we kept watch on it -no activity was detected. I even mused that perhaps it was a vacation home, since the only quiet time for the mailbox would have been on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and occasional Monday holidays. A few days ago, when I removed the mail, which included a package, several catalogs and a magazine.. and a long envelope, the nest came forward with the letter! I tugged on it to see if there was any sign of tiny feathers or eggshell shards….nothing to indicate that the nest had been inhabited. I snapped a picture and left it. Then, I engaged in some covert bird watching to see if a flurry of sparrows or finches or brown thrush would flutter around it. Nothing.  I named the photograph ‘Special Delivery’4E3622E3-8FC3-4555-AFA0-BFE5003A4D06

Later in the day, I removed it and inspected the mailbox nest further- a veritable work of art, look at the perfectly round entrance, protective entrance twigs and the edging of moss! Hmm…I wondered who had been pilfering the bright green moss I had used on the urns by the front door! Some little feathered friends! I marveled at the tiny birds who were making a lovely nest…far back in the darkened and dilapidated mailbox…. I have to admit, there was an element of sadness to think such a pretty nest had never become a place of rest for a momma bird to lay her eggs, raise her young, feed them worms from our garden and finally teach these little ones to fly- and yet, what lesson in nesting… of using our gifts, putting forth the effort to build a home and adding beauty no matter where we are!

Love y’all, Camellia

* photographs are obviously mine. *Please don’t remove a bird’s nest if you find one…don’t disturb or touch it either, unless you find something unusual like this or an obviously abandoned nest! Thank you! 66C4041F-FC76-482E-BB36-94694EC2A3A0*I’ve put this one on display for now and I consider the nest to be a rare find, a natural wonder and a treasure!

Father’s Day…

I couldn’t resist passing this along again! Now, I know there are some wonderful fathers and others who have taken the time to be wonderful role models for our children! Would love to hear about them! You’ve got to know by now, I love a good story! Wishing all the significant men in our lives a very Happy Father’s Day! Love y’all, Camellia

Camellia's Cottage

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This is one of my favorite ‘Southern Daddy’ photos- the man is not the daddy, he is the great uncle admiring his great niece! This child is dearly loved, has wonderful parents and all manner of loving kinfolk . The reason I love this photograph is- the man’s expression tickles me…the way he is holding the child makes me smile. There are  all kinds of Southern Daddies… fathers, uncles, grandfathers, stepfathers, adoptive fathers, and ‘friends who are the fathers we choose for ourselves’ – men who choose to step in when other men can’t or won’t.  On Father’s Day, it is important to recognize that everyone does not have a father- a birth father, who chose to be involved and be a good influence in the life of a child.

The man you see in the photo- presided over 1000’s of adoptions in his tenure as Judge of Probate. The old name was ‘The…

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Summer Squash Casserole…

C7D81DCC-0D98-478C-BAF8-E28C674A9BE7Unless you were raised in a thicket of Loblolly pines by a passel of possums- as a Southerner you’ve eaten your fair share of casseroles. I cannot recall the first time I tasted a casserole, though I do recall the first time I ever watched a casserole being made. I was about four years old, our neighbor cooked for her aging mother on Fridays- she let me ‘help‘. My feet didn’t reach the floor of her kitchen table- yet we always started the morning drinking a cup of coffee- yes, you read that right. My coffee was full of cream and sugar- which to this day I would rather prefer to drink black! Still. I was polite and didn’t make a fuss because when the cooking got under way…well, it was an amazing thing to watch. Her kitchen was fully equipped. Her freezer held an enormous amount of fruits and vegetables she had put up in  containers right beside those aluminum ice cube trays that had a lever to release the ice. Miss Margaret, also had a pantry lined with lacy paper edging the shelves- there were rows and rows of pickles, preserves and an enormous amount of canning jars full of tomatoes and other fine things. Her living room might have been filled with doodads, even a Kewpie Doll her husband won for her at the county fair, an upright piano with a crocheted scarf across the top with even more doodads- but her kitchen ran like a well oiled machine.  When Margaret was making a casserole, I remember how much I liked the word, I even said it under my breath until I could pronounce casserole just like she did. From then on, my ears perked up when I heard the word and saw an oven proof baking dish. Did I make a lot of them as a kid. Not really, but as an adult, I’ve made my share and eaten even more.

Now, here’s something you need to know about Southern Casseroles, our cookbooks will have a whole section in the index for casseroles– I have one cookbook which has recipes for 97 casseroles! Oh, southern cooks might pretty it up by calling the humble casseroles by different names-

  • Au Gratin, Puff, Fancy,
  • Gourmet, Luxury, Escalloped,
  • Layered or Delight-

Though really, casseroles are only gussied up potatoes, grits, noodles or rice. crushed crackers and maybe chicken or ground beef. Casseroles often have mysterious, exotic and foreign names like-

  • Florentine, Italian,
  • Mexicali, Spanish, Creole,
  • Sicilian, Tetrazzini, Polynesian, Parisian or-
  •  Hawaiian. (Okay, I know that’s not foreign but it sure sounds exotic!)
  •  What about Oriental Green Beans? Southerners thought Oriental or Asian was an exotic dish because it had soy sauce, ginger and chow mien noodles!
  • We even call a green bean casserole- French Bean Casserole, when the only ingredient in it even remotely ‘French’ were beans cut ‘French style’

Southerners also love to entitle their casseroles with divine or royal names…

  • Imperial, a la King, Regal,
  • Supreme, Divine, Angel or Heavenly.

* A word of caution: If a casserole is required for bereavement food– please do not take ‘deviled‘ anything, it sends the wrong message…

  • ‘Deviled Peas’ , ‘Deviled Imperial Crab’,
  • ‘Beef Diablo’ or ‘Deviled Creole Shrimp’ …
  • You may get away with stuffed eggs but please do not say- ‘Now, Ruth Ann- you bring the Devilled Eggs!’

It’s just not fitting for a funeral! Now, there are a few recipes with appropriate names, like:

  •  Heavenly Hash, Bye Bye Chicken and possibly Wild Rice with Lonesome Doves- though, I would recommend dropping the wild rice and substituting fluffy white rice, and for heaven’s sake-  go easy on the cayenne pepper-
  • Maybe change the name to ‘Ascension Doves on a Cloud of White Rice’ served in a chafing dish would be more appealing.

Be ever mindful of the unsettled minds and delicate constitutions of the mourners. While we do have a flair for the dramatic, we wouldn’t want to serve anything inappropriate!

At it’s heart, the Southern Casserole really is a way to stretch simple ingredients to feed a crowd and then throw in an unusual ingredient to give it some crunch or zing. Casseroles are generally easy to assemble and bake. If the recipe says- ‘May be assembled and chilled for up to 24 hours before baking’ well, that’s a busy cook’s dream! Now, to be fair, some casseroles are more involved– take more skill to prepare. In one of my favorite cookbooks- Cotton Country from the Junior League of Morgan County Alabama, there is a quote… ‘Beautiful- delicious -The girl who really loves to cook will find this great fun; the girl who doesn’t- will meet her Waterloo’ …  I have to admit ‘Breast of Chicken- Deluxe’ – a chicken casserole with Rice Collette, a Sherry Sauce and Bing Cherries might be a Waterloo for me and I love to cook!

Now, a few more things before I tell you how to make Summer Squash Casserole… please don’t think all Southern Casseroles use canned ‘cream of’ soups…though I will say- some of my favorites do! A whole lot of casseroles rely on milk and eggs, a white sauce or even a meat sauce combined with cheeses and other wonderful things. Southern Casseroles run the gamut from fruit to vegetable to seafood and meats to full blown, all out meeting your Waterloo skills!

I recently ran a very quick poll on Camellia’s Cottage community of guinea pigs! Here’s a very skimpy short list of the all time favorites…

  • Apricot Casserole, Breakfast Casserole, Broccoli Casserole,
  • Chicken Tetrazzini, Poppy Seed Chicken, Mexican Layered Casserole,
  • Hash Brown Casserole (Tater Tot came in a close second to this!)
  • Sweet Potato Casserole (which might have been number one!) and …ta da! C7D81DCC-0D98-478C-BAF8-E28C674A9BE7
  • Summer Squash Casserole is always welcome at Camellia’s Cottage! Made from fresh steamed yellow crookneck squash and mild Vidalia onions when in season! It has no canned creamed soup…just milk, eggs, cheese and a generous amount of sharp cheddar cheese! Here’s how you make-

Camellia’s Summer Squash Casserole

  • To steam the squash: In a medium saucepan, slice 5-6 Yellow Squash- discarding the tip ends and stem ends. Slice a medium sweet onion and separate into rings. Toss gently. Add 3/4 to 1 cup of water , then a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of black pepper. Cover and steam on medium heat until tender. (Some add bacon drippings of a small amount of diced ham and do so if you wish.  Summer Squash steamed like this is wonderful on its own!)D892F7D0-532A-4BC3-83EF-E9CF24907B43
  • Drain Steamed Squash and Onions. Place in buttered oven proof bowl or dish.
  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Grate 1 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar cheese. You will need 6-8 saltine crackers crushed.
  • Whisk 2-3 large eggs, 3/4 cup of whole milk, a pinch of cayenne pepper. Fold in 3/4 cup of grated cheddar and a few crushed saltine crackers- reserve the remainder of the cheese for topping. Pour mixture over Steamed Squash and Onions. Toss very gently.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed and brown around the edges.
  • Meanwhile, crush 5-6 saltine crackers and strew over the top of the baked squash. Top with the remainder of the grated cheddar cheese.
  • Return to the oven and bake until melted and bubbly or…(like I did on this occasion) until the cheese and crackers are crunchy… a few minutes should do it.E730F2A2-FDA7-4E19-BACC-C0E45E628F82
  • This isn’t necessary- but I do like to make up a Spice Mix of 4 tablespoons of sweet paprika and 1 teaspoon of cayenne or red pepper flakes…to sprinkle over dishes like this Summer Squash Casserole! Feel free to name the Spice Mix- Deviled Paprika. Keep the spice mix labelled and on hand to sprinkle over stuffed eggs or egg salad…anything  that could use some color and extra zing!

Serve and enjoy!! Here’s a tip! *I have added a few more eggs and a bit more cheese…poured the mixture onto a buttered sheet pan and made this same recipe for a squash frittata! Cooled, then cut into squares- it’s a wonderful appetizer..Yum! Also, feel free to adjust the amount of cheese- it’s all up to your personal taste.

The Farmer’s Markets now have yellow crookneck summer squash or you can use frozen yellow squash- we love this casserole year round here at the Cottage.  Steamed or Casseroled Summer Squash is wonderful with Grilled or Fried Pork Chops, Pickled Beets, Sliced Tomatoes or a crisp Salad and those Cheddar/Chive Drop Biscuits make it a meal!

BD40B95F-5A1F-4F8D-BBE5-CB54252BE68EFolks will be grinning like a passel of possums when they see a Summer Squash Casserole! I suspect Southern Casseroles will be around for as long as folks like to gather for Sunday Dinners, Reunions, Decoration Days, Homecomings or Homegoings! Bless the cooks who bring casseroles! And as always…

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.

*Cotton Country of Morgan County, Alabama is a wonderful Junior League cookbook- if you can find one, you’ll love it!  Mine is part of collection of classic Junior League Cookbooks published by Favorite Recipe® Press through Southwestern Book Company and I purchased mine on Amazon.com – well worth the price for it’s priceless recipes and remarks, if you can find one! Chicken Breast Deluxe with Collette Rice and Sherry Sauce is a recipe from Cotton Country submitted by Mrs. Claude Carter.